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“Tradition” versus law: all eyes on the court

KARACHI – The verdict that will be given by the court on November 14 in the child marriage case will have to be accepted by the whole community, including the parents of the groom and bride, maternal uncle of the groom Fida Hussain told The News.

Contrary to the claims made by groom’s father Ismail, Hussain, who is also the brother-in-law of the bride’s father, claimed that the marriage was not arranged to settle any family dispute. Ismail had claimed that the marriage had been fixed to solve a 30-year-old dispute between the two families. Father of the bride, Nasir, who is also brother-in-law of Ismail, gave the same reason for the marriage to the Nikahkhwan of Madina Masjid situated in Mujahid Colony, Nazimabad, Block-4.

Nikahkhwan Maulana Gul Hussain Kamal said that he had no idea that the parents had decided to get their minors married. When I went there, I was not informed about the ages of the groom and bride. After putting their names on the form, I asked the family members to bring the groom to follow the Nikkah procedure.

I was shocked to see a young boy as a groom and immediately told the family that this would not be legal because the groom is under age and such marriages are banned in Pakistan, Kamal said

The family explained to him that they were just making the rishta formal and the rukhsati would be held after 20 years. While he was trying to convince the family, the police raided the wedding ceremony, arrested the elders and took the children into their custody.

Station House Officer (SHO) Nazimabad, Inspector Changez Khan, said that the Nikahkhwan made a verbal complaint against families, while the Nazim of Union Council-9 lodged a written application against it. According to Khan, the Child Marriage Act 19, 1929 deems child marriage to be illegal.

As per section-6 of the act, the guardians of both the groom and the bride might face fines and imprisonment. Changez further said that no FIR had been lodged in the case. Family relatives had instead lodged a petition against the police for keeping the groom, the bride and their guardians in illegal police custody.

Neighbours said that child marriages were part of their culture and traditions. We are living in Karachi for the past 50 years and have seen many of these marriages, he said. Personally I do not like this, but I cannot reveal the number of people who support it as it might create tension in the colony among the community, one of the men in the area stated. According to him, such decisions were taken in their local jirga. No such decision had been made regarding the wedding of 7-year-old Waseem and 4-year-old Nisha, he said.

Fathers of both the groom and the bride are traders of itars (local perfumes). Both men avoided talking to The News. Relatives claimed that both the men were ashamed and felt guilty. Neighbours claimed that they had stopped stepping out of their houses. The News has learnt that Ismail had spent most of his life abroad and had only returned to the country for the wedding. The court has released Waseem, Nisha, Kamal, and two others on bail of Rs5, 000 each.
Source: The News
Date:11/3/2008

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